Today was Service Learning Immersion Day at my school. We have two of these immersion days every year. For this one, the 4th grade went to Share Your Soles, a Chicago-based charity that sends new and gently used shoes all over the world. We have volunteered there for 5 or 6 years now and it's always a wonderful experience.
Share Your Soles moved to a new facility since last year. They were located in a former Pullman (train car) building previously. They have now moved into a former stable, also in the historic Pullman district. They are not quite done with renovating the space we discovered. They had a porta-potty in the warehouse section because the real bathrooms were under construction. There was also almost no heat. Fortunately we knew that it would be chilly and every came prepared. Also, once the kids started working, they quickly got warmed up.
Our trip is part educational and part service. We learn about how Mona Purdy founded Share Your Soles after seeing children in Guatemala, I think, putting hot tar on the soles of their feet because they had no shoes and needed protection. She went home and began collecting shoes. It is now her full-time job to run the charity. She explained why shoes are so important. They protect feet against injury and parasites, which in some countries can lead to loss of a limb after infection sets in. In some places children cannot go to school if they don't have shoes. She told us about people in Indonesia who live in town dumps -- Share Your Soles gives them wellies to protest their feet from the dirty water.
The other part of our trip is working. We sort the bags of donated shoes into pairs, checking and discarding any worn-out shoes. The shoes are then sorted by types -- gym shoes, sandals, black shoes (needed for school attendance), boots, and so on. Our students jumped into the work with relish and accomplished a lot!
We got back to school in time to catch the last 10 minutes of the school assembly celebrating service learning. One of our 4th graders spoke to the whole school about our trip. It was a great end to an awesome day.